Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a hot lunch at school a couple of times a week. However, I still had days where I had to bring my lunch from home. Today, school meals are widely controversial due to the varying degrees of financial status. Some kids are able to buy their lunch, some kids qualify for discounted or free lunches and some kids have to bring their food from home. In this case, it is important that their lunches be satisfying as well as healthy!
Middle school and high school students
Turkey Salad on Wheat Bread
This is a great option for kids that are maybe a little older (maybe middle school to high school ages) because it can seem like a more “grown-up” sandwich compared to typical peanut butter and jelly.
- 2/3 cup chopped romaine
- 1/2 cup finely chopped cooked turkey
- 2 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons frozen peas, thawed
- 2 tablespoons shredded Swiss cheese
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Dash pepper
- 4 slices whole-wheat bread
- In a small bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. Stir in mayonnaise and pepper. Spread over 2 slices of bread; top with remaining bread.
Pack it with:
Chia Seed Protein Bites
- 1-1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup almond butter or creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup chia seeds
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup vanilla or chocolate protein powder
- 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to roll. Shape into 1-1/2-in. balls. Roll in additional coconut if desired. Store in the refrigerator.
This is a hearty and protein-packed lunch that is also super tasty! I recommend a brown bag lunch like this for athletes to help boost their energy and support healthy muscle growth.
Elementary School and middle school (or high school)
Chicken Cucumber Pitas
- 2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
- 1 large cucumber, quartered, seeded and sliced
- 1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
- 1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup cubed cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 12 pita pocket halves
- In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In a small bowl, combine the ranch dressing, mayonnaise, Italian dressing, garlic powder, and pepper; pour over chicken mixture and toss to coat. Fill each pita half with a scant 1/2 cup chicken mixture.
Pack it with:
Sesame-Garlic Pumpkin Seeds
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
- 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- Preheat oven to 325°.
- In a small bowl, whisk egg white and oil until frothy.
- Add pumpkin seeds and toss to coat.
- Stir in sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, garlic, salt and caraway seeds.
- Spread in a single layer in a parchment-lined 15x10x1-in. baking pan.
- Bake 35-40 minutes or until dry and golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes.
What I love about this brown bag lunch option is that it is easy to pack, easy to eat and deliciously healthy!
*Avoid any and all ingredients that cause an allergic reaction to your child*
Elementary School kids
Young kids (between 5 and 8) may seem like the pickiest eaters but really I think they just know what they like and what they don’t. For young kids, I recommend keeping brown bag lunches simple like with their favorite sandwich, favorite fruit and maybe a yogurt or pudding cup.
For example, my son is currently 2.5 years old so he isn’t heading off to school yet but he knows what he likes! If I were to pack him a brown bag lunch I would probably make him a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread (he loves whole grains), a banana or an apple, a granola bar, and a small container of milk.